Joseph Parker is back in Saudi Arabia this weekend but instead of fighting for his career, the 32 year-old New Zealander can sit back in a plush ringside seat and watch Filip Hrgovic, Daniel Dubois, Zhilei Zhang and Deontay Wilder fight for the right to join him at the heavyweight division’s top table.

Just as Saudi Arabia’s entry into boxing has transformed the landscape of the sport, Parker has reinvented himself as a heavyweight. 

This time last year, Parker was surveying his options after stopping Faiga Opelu inside a round in Melbourne, Australia. Heavyweights are always only one punch away from the big time but the former WBO champion was also only one more defeat away from a permanent spot in the away corner.

Things began to change last October. Parker trains with Tyson Fury team member, Andy Lee, and that, coupled with his strong relationship with 'The Gypsy King’, probably played its part in landing him a spot on the undercard of Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou. Parker made the most of his chance by blowing through Simon Kean and was then selected to be Deontay Wilder’s victim the following December.

Parker turned in a career best performance and derailed a heavily hyped shoot-out between Wilder and Anthony Joshua by comfortably outpointing ‘The Bronze Bomber’. He rolled straight into a dangerous fight with Chinese powerhouse, Zhilei Zhang and although Parker had a tougher time with the ‘Big Bang’ and was floored twice, he thoroughly deserved the majority decision he was awarded. 

The Arabian air is clearly to Parker’s liking. 

Zhang and Wilder meet in Saudi Arabia this weekend. The fight headlines the Queensberry Vs. Matchroom ‘5 Vs. 5’ card but there is much, much more at stake for each man than a point or two for their teams.

“This fight, honestly, excites me. I’m so happy to be here to watch this fight live,” Parker told Steve Bunce on the 5Live Boxing podcast. “Both guys can bang so both guys can knock each other out. I feel that in this fight we’re gonna see a different Wilder.

“I feel like he’s gonna come out more vicious. Zhang looks like he’s trimmed down a bit so hopefully that’ll help with his conditioning but for this fight, I’m favouring Wilder. I think it’s make or break for these guys.

“The loser will get pushed towards retirement or have smaller show fights. You can’t really do that when you’ve been at this level. It’s a lot harder.”